Police forces across the country are to trial new gadgets, dubbed ‘spitalysers’, in a bid to crack down on drivers under the influence of cannabis.
In plans announced this week, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the new device was part of a plan to tackle the problem of drug drivers.
The Government has currently invested £120,000 in the devices, which are being put to use by 11 police forces across England and Wales.
Their use comes ahead of new legislation, due to be enacted later this year, which would make it easier for the police to prosecute drivers who drive after taking drugs. Currently it must be proved that a driver was impaired, which requires testing by a doctor.
Road safety charity Brake recently reported that one in nine young motorists (aged 17-24) had admitted to driving after taking drugs.
Speaking to the Police Federation Conference earlier this week, Mr McLoughlin said: “Drug driving is a menace which devastates families and ruins lives.
“That is why Government is determined to make sure the police have the equipment they need to catch drivers who have taken illegal drugs.
“What's needed is effective technology.
“Screening for cannabis is a good place to start as it's one of the most widely used drugs.”
The new hand-held devices would allow for immediate testing of individuals suspected of drug-driving, though concerns have been raised about the length of time cannabis stays in a user’s system, and whether that could lead to false prosecutions.
Those found guilty of drug-driving under the forthcoming legislation would face an automatic 12-month driving ban and up to six months in prison and a £5,000 fine.